Rumsfeld, Chinese discuss military

Give-and-take covers capability, perceptions

October 21, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BEIJING -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld concluded a visit to Beijing yesterday with an unusual round-table session with Chinese officers that turned into a lively discussion about the two countries' military capabilities and intentions.

Rumsfeld told students and faculty members at the Academy of Military Sciences here that China's neighbors worry about Beijing's decision to expand its missile forces and to increase the range of those rockets so they can strike nations beyond the Pacific.

He said that while China may make sovereign decisions about its military policy, other nations have the right to question whether it is being forthright about the level of its spending on troops and weapons and the motivation driving its growing arsenal.

In particular, the defense secretary questioned why China and Russia had joined diplomatic forces in an effort to prompt Central Asian states, especially Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, to evict U.S. and coalition forces from bases on their soil.

Those American and allied troops and aircraft still are needed to combat Taliban and al-Qaida forces attempting to undermine Afghanistan's new government and for continued relief efforts there, Rumsfeld said. And he said the United States has no intention of establishing large permanent bases in those former Soviet states.

China "is expanding its missile forces and enabling those forces to reach many areas of the world well beyond the Pacific region," Rumsfeld said. "Those advances in China's strategic strike capability raise questions, particularly when there's an imperfect understanding of such developments on the part of others."

One Chinese officer rebuffed Rumsfeld's critique that Beijing's military budget remains a mystery, saying that increases were required to modernize Chinese forces after years of inadequate spending.

And another officer said that while Rumsfeld accused China of sending mixed signals about its global intentions, the United States had not been transparent in its reasons for securing access rights to the base in Uzbekistan, nor in stating how long U.S. forces planned to stay in Central Asia.

American reporters traveling with Rumsfeld were allowed to hear the defense secretary's opening remarks and the first question posed by a Chinese officer, but they were required by the academy's leadership to leave for the remainder of the 45-minute discussion.

Details of the rest of the give-and-take were supplied by Lawrence Di Rita, Rumsfeld's spokesman, who attended the entire session. Di Rita described the face-to-face session between Rumsfeld and the Chinese officers as "extremely professional," and he said it had allowed each side to gain greater understanding of the other.

Today, Rumsfeld is scheduled to attend security consultations in Seoul, South Korea, where command arrangements for the combined U.S.-South Korean force are expected to be discussed.

Under current agreements, the South Korean armed forces are under South Korean command during peacetime but fall under American command in case of war.

South Korean leaders have expressed a desire for that agreement to be reviewed, with a goal to retaining command of their forces at all times.

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